It’s taken me a generous distance, as well as a healthy break from the pain, to realize I don’t understand what my mom thought of me. In my earliest years, I believed she loved me, cause none of her demands were unreasonable. After all, children are often helpless and don’t even know what’s best for themselves. Then I grew up, and developed an identity of my own. That meant I had distinctive needs separate from hers, and she would deny every one of them unless they were in line with what she wanted. It was impossible for me to believe there was any love at all when she was the cause of so much of my pain. I’ve since come to realize that relationships are full of nuances, and that it’s possible to love someone wholeheartedly and be terrible for them at the same time.
Depression has added an extra cost to everything I do. Something as simple as buying groceries means making sure my energy levels are carefully paced for a few days before I leave the house, and being too burned out to do any form of interaction for a few days after. If something goes wrong during the process — a night of poor sleep, a sick cat, a loss of motivation, a colitis flare-up — and I run out of spoons, the problems cascade and I end up having to cancel my plans.
That’s why I choose to spend time with people who understand what it truly costs me to function; they happen to be the ones who are consistently reliable, very understanding if I have to cancel, and put as much effort into maintaining the relationship as I do.1
Heather started tapering off her dose of venlafaxine cause she feels stable enough to take the risk2, and wants to start working without the associated mental haze. Even though music is still a joyless experience, the fact that she’s getting excited about Halloween again is a sign that she’s finally healing.
She doesn’t mind carrying more emotional labour (and I remain willfully ignorant, for the time being), cause she knows I’m playing life on hard mode. My job is to make sure she feels appreciated for doing more than her fair share. The crises we’ve been weathering together since we met means our honeymoon phase was cut short, but neither of us mind, cause intimacy is what we were missing for so long.3
The fact that it takes me fewer days be to comfortable around anyone when my insecurities get the better of me means I’m gaining some small form of equanimity. I still have moments when I feel too damaged to be happy, too worthless to be loved, or too broken to be fixed, but it takes me less time to realign my perceptions with reality. The lows aren’t as debilitatingly deep either.
I’ve been using the momentum to take small steps out of my comfort zone; spending more time in difficult situations, learning to be emotionally vulnerable, exploring new ways of expressing myself4, processing parts of the past I’ve tried my best to forget. Even though I’m anxious to feel normal again, I’m forced to recognize my limitations and keep myself paced. I know I’m not where I want to be, but I’m moving in the right direction. That’s enough to keep me going for now.
- Also, perhaps not-coincidentally, usually people who have deal with some form of depression or chronic illness in their lives. [↩]
- I still have no idea whether mine are keeping me afloat, but the fact that I don’t suffer any side-effects means I’ll be on them for the foreseeable future. [↩]
- Finding my underwear washed and folded one day — a responsibility I’ve never shared with any girlfriend — gave me the weirdest boner. [↩]
- The only luxury purchase for me this year has been an Impact LX-49 MIDI controller. [↩]
All his life he had been active, doing things about the house, looking after patients, thinking, studying, writing. How good it was to stop doing, struggling, thinking, to leave it all for a time to nature, to become her thing, her concern, the work of her merciful, wonderful, beauty-lavishing hands.
Time is giving me the chance to feel hurt without hate. If only the process didn’t make the indivisible moments so overwhelmingly painful. The idea of being normal seems like a modest goal, now that an act as simple as washing the dishes becomes a burden I can’t bear. It’s the reason I don’t trust myself behind the wheel of a car, the reason song and film do nothing to help me retreat.
As a result, our lives have been reduced to the simplest means of survival. I play my games like a full-time job, slowly processing things I’ve kept in the back of my head as a means of staying safe from myself. We eat, we sleep, we start over again. My responsibility is to myself now, and it’s a good day if I can get one productive thing done, from a simple shower to a step outside. And if even that proves too much, I’m learning to be okay with that too, as time is measured across experiences and lives, not by the moments in which we stumble and fall.
When she sees me trying to shake the thoughts loose, looking for support on cold tile, I’m told to take as much time as I need to get better, and reminded she won’t leave if I never do. I don’t have to hide my feelings or moods, cause she doesn’t judge me for the depth of my sadness, nor hold my anger against me. Every day she grows more tender than the last, even as I fall and break apart, and I’m learning to understand how, when I have such a hard time accepting the shade of a person I am right now. It’s such boundless affection that finally makes me feel loved because of who I am, and not what I do or offer or represent.
After so many years living at arms-length with everyone around me, it’s a feeling that’s impossible for me to take for granted. I can’t help but internalize every way her grace brings me joy. Every time she thanks me for letting her take care of my needs and wants.
And with this foundation, I learn how to be a person again, as I try to write my way out of this hole.
The breaking point happened one night, when an acquaintance I’ll call Thomas chided me for not getting back to him sooner about a dinner invitation. Thomas was upset enough that he needed some time off from hanging out. I didn’t understand, as he never expressed his concern, so I had no idea there was a problem in the first place. I apologized for hurting him, and pleaded with him to let me know next time so it wouldn’t happen again. Still, the situation didn’t sit well with me; my belated reply was due to the fact that I was in a difficult place of my own, about which he never asked or considered. I was left confused, and sad that I’d unwittingly hurt someone so much as to need a break.
So I called my best friend at the time, looking for support. “Avail?” was my usual code-word by text, to let him know I could wait until he had taken care of everything else, as I never took his time for granted. But this time, I was shaken enough that I needed more than just an ear, and told him, instead of asking. When I finally got him on the phone, he dismissed everything I tried to say, overriding it with, “This is what you need to do. Mark three months from now on your calendar, and call him then. He’ll forget by that time”. I tried to explain my feelings over and over, that I wasn’t looking to make amends but trying to understand the situation, and this was the most meaningful answer he could offer. I broke down when I knew I wasn’t getting through, when I realized he wasn’t an ally at a time I truly needed it, and that he never was.
It’s been too long since my last emotional break. I can tell I’m in rough shape when I start to carry the tension of the last shift to my next one, mostly cause I’m getting lost between people and projects, instead of unwinding and recharging. My Mac Pro also breathed it’s last, and I haven’t had the comfort of my familiar electronic space in over a week. As I build my next system, I’ve turned to other forms of happiness to fill the hole. They’re often just as worth my time, but don’t often leave space for the introversion I need to centre myself.
Still; the fact that I haven’t written in so long is cause I have a chance to talk to Heather on a consistent basis. As a source of immediate feedback (along with endless empathy and attention), she’s become the outlet I’ve needed for so long. On good days, our broken halves make a whole person. But on her bad days, I’m not always ready to be the strong one, and sometimes I can’t help but feel inadequate when she’s she’s still hurting or not fixed yet, even when I know I’m not the cause.
It makes me especially anxious to get over a past that’s stopping me from further growth. I just want to stop suffering from and struggling with various forms of trauma, so I can reach a sense of stability. But that seems further away than ever at times like this, when I’m not coping with the things I can’t control, and I wonder if I should be making peace with it all instead of fighting it.